Eastern Screech Owl New England's dominating bird

Introduction

A Eastern Screech Owl nests in a cavity in a tree

The Eastern Screech OwL

Megascops asio

A small gray squirrel watches it’s step carefully as it passes through the deep woodlands of New England. The squirrel tries hard not to make a sound as it places its feet gently on the dry leaves. He believes he is safe. However, he thought wrong, just as he starts to climb a tree he feels a strong wind. He turns around and faces a huge bird. The bird has huge wings, sharp beak, piercing talons and the squirrel knows that he has just encountered New England’s Dominating Bird: The Eastern Screech Owl --- The Eastern Screech Owl has always been a bird that is a danger to animals smaller than itself. From adaptations, to symbiosis, to fierce competition, hidden habitats and all the way to vivid physical descriptions , the Eastern Screech Owl has definitely gave itself the name New England’s Dominating Bird. Megascops asio, Eastern Screech Owl, dominating bird, or whatever you call it, the Eastern Screech Owl is definitely audacious animal.

Physical Description

The Eastern Screech Owl physical features shape them into a dominating creature. The ears of the Eastern Screech Owl are keen and peaked up into a triangle shape. This is a feature that makes it very different from other raptor owls (“Soaring Wing”). Another thing is the color. Eastern Screech Owls are mostly brown, although they can come in gray, maroon and beige. These colors help them cloak and conceal very well (“Eastern Screech Owl” 2017). This is why they are masters at camouflage and dissimulation. Their beady yellow eyes and their cloaked skin gives the prey no idea that they are lurking there. The type of beak, the Eastern Screech Owl has is called a “tearing beak”. It is curved and made for tearing and piercing prey. It is used to turn meat into bite size pieces by tugging away skin. (“Tearing”) The wings are known as the “Soaring Wing”. They are long but broad and flat. (“Soaring Wing”). Eastern Screech Owl have talons that are very sharp and can grasp onto anything and like said before they have one talon out of four that's pointed backward.

Two Eastern Screech Owls peering out of cavity in a tree

Habitat

Eastern Screech Owls can be found in woodlands like this one

Eastern Screech Owls can be found in ANY woodlands or mixed woods, shady trees or farm groves. They are suited to any habitat with open ground, forests and isolated grooves. Eastern Screech Owls have also been spotted at parks and in shady suburbs. They like to be in places where it is isolated and with lots of abandoned woodpecker holes. This is because Eastern Screech Owl live in abandoned woodpecker holes, but they don't just stay in one hole, the move over a repeated process. (“Eastern Screech Owl” 2017)

The purple color shows that the Eastern Screech Owl is in that area all season/year round.

Competition

Other Owls such as the Northern Sawhet Owl engage in fierce competition with the Eastern Screech Owl

Eastern Screech Owls compete in both intraspecific and interspecific. Intraspecific means that they compete for resources with members of their own species and interspecific means that they compete with members of other species. The Eastern Screech Owl engages in intraspecific competition for different resources and reasons. One of these reasons is to find a mate. Eastern Screech Owls have a specific behavior to attract mates (“Eastern Screech Owl”).This behavior includes bowing, raising wings and clicking their bill (“Eastern Screech Owl 2017”). Males Bring food to the female. In this way the male that brings the most food to the female wins her over. Eastern Screech Owls also compete with members of their own species for food and shelter. (“Eastern Screech Owl 2017”) However, not only do they compete with other Eastern Screech Owls, they also compete with other species. They compete with Barred Owls, Great Horned Owl and the Northern Saw Whet Owl for food and shelter (“Eastern Screech Owl 2017”). All these birds eat the same type of food and competition is high between them, especially for deer mice. But other animals such as frogs, small rodents, squirrels, and other birds are al competed for by the Eastern ScreehOwl, Barred Owl, Great Horned Owl and the Northern Sawhet Owl. These birds, including woodpeckers, also compete for shelter. They all live in the same type of habitat. This includes tree trees, shadowy places and deciduous woods (“Eastern Screech Owl 2017”).

Barred Owls and Eastern Screech Owls both compete for shelter which includes abandoned woodpecker holes.

Role in the Ecosystem

Eastern Screech Owls are predators to any animals smaller than itself. It is prey to other Owls and some bigger birds. They are carnivores so they only prey on meat.

Adaptations

A Eastern Screech Owl camouflaging against a tree
Eastern Screech Owls and other raptor-owls have this type of feet

The Eastern Screech Owl has some very stimulating adaptations. One of these consists of the Eastern Screech Owl’s backward talon (“Tearing”). They have four talons in all, three pointing forward and one pointing backward (“Tearing”). However, they can rotate one of their talons at a 180 degree angle making it really easy to grab and catch prey (“Tearing”). The next adaptation is how the Eastern Screech Owl can camouflage itself really well. The Eastern Screech Owl has a set of complex bands and patterns that blend in with its surroundings (“Eastern Screech Owl” 2017). This makes it easy to discreetly follow prey and suddenly pounce on them with surprise. Eastern Screech Owls have various adaptations. These are just a few of them.

Symbiosis

The Eastern Screech Owl engages in some very interesting symbiosis. One of these relationships is the mutualism of Eastern Screech Owls and blind worm-like snakes. Eastern Screech Owls bring live worm like-blind snakes to their nests. Almost every species they bring is brought dead except the blind snakes. (“Eastern Screech Owl” 2017). Some of the blind snakes are to be eaten for meals, but Eastern Screech Owls save a specific amount of snakes. These saved snakes then go to the bottom of the owl’s nest and create a burrow for a home. They then feed off of insects and parasites that are located in the nest. (“Owl, woodpecker photo exhibit tells of symbiosis, conservation at Burke museum”) This is why the Eastern Screech Owl brings the snakes to its nest. The insects and parasites are harmful to baby owls, so when the snakes eat them the baby owls are protected. The owls gets protection and the snakes get food which is mutualism (“Eastern Screech Owl”) Eastern Screech Owls also engage in commensalism with woodpeckers. Commensalism is when one species is helped and the other is neither helped nor harmed. When woodpeckers are bored of their homes and move to a different place, Eastern Screech Owls move into the abandoned woodpecker home. So Eastern Screech Owls gain a house and Woodpeckers gain nothing making it commensalism.

This is the Blind Worm that the Eastern Screech Owl brings into its nest.

Diet

Deer mice are one of the most important food in a Eastern Screech Owl's diet

These are the main foods the Eastern Screech Owl eats:

  1. large insects
  2. Small rodents
  3. Beetles
  4. Moths
  5. Crickets
  6. Mice
  7. Lizards
  8. Frogs
  9. Spiders
  10. Earthworms
  11. Crayfish

Since the Eastern Screech Owls are carnivores that only eat meat and that top they mostly eat nocturnal animals because that's when the Eastern Screech Owl hunts. Eastern Screech Owl however eat all animals that are smaller than itself. The Eastern Screech Owl is mainly a teritary Consumer in most food chains or food pyramids.

A Eastern Screech Owl food pyramid; the Eastern Screech Owl eats the gray Squirrel. The gray squirrel eats the black Ants and the black Ants eat the mint leaves. This shows energy transfer between all of these animals.
A Eastern a Screech Owl Food Web; this is many food chains into one food web.

Acknowledgements

I am a 7th Grade Student at Oak Middle School. This page was created as a part of our project called Bird is the Word. During this project our team partnered with the Mass Audubon Society and Broad Meadow Brook to create educational materials for their fundraising event called the Bird-a-Thon. Each student chose a bird to study. My bird was the Eastern Screech Owl. Below are some resources that I created along with my classmates.

Works Cited

“Eastern Screech-Owl.” All About Birds, Cornell University, www.allaboutbirds.org. Accessed 3 Apr.

2017.

“Eastern Screech Owl.” Audubon Bird Guide: North America, e-book, National Audubon Society,

2017.

“Eastern Screech-Owl.” Lincoln Park Zoo, 2003, lpzoo.org. Accessed 27 Mar. 2017.

McDonald, Stephen, and Tanya Dewey. “Eastern screech owl.” BioKIDS, U of Michigan,

www.biokids.umich.edu Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.

“Otus Asio.” The Virtual Nature Trail at Penn State New Kensington, Pennsylvania State University,

2013, psu.edu. Accessed 28 Mar. 2017.

“Owl, woodpecker photo exhibit tells of symbiosis, conservation at Burke Museum.” University of

Washington, 2017, washington.edu. Accessed 3 Apr. 2017.

“Tearing” Project Beak. Interactive Media and Graphics Unit, 2017, projectbeak.org. Accessed 11

Apr. 2017.

Credits:

Created with images by Michael Bentley - "Eastern Screech Owl on Display" • ocean yamaha - "20101028_MG_3842-2" • Wildreturn - "Eastern Screech Owl (McCall's subspecies)" • Hunter-Desportes - "Young Eastern Screech Owl" • qmnonic - "eastern screech-owlets" • bill.showalter - "Arouind the bend" • Hunter-Desportes - "Young Eastern Screech Owl" • brendan.lally....away - "Northern Saw-whet Owl" • Avia Venefica - "Barred Owl" • Wildreturn - "Eastern Screech Owl (McCall's subspecies)" • BioDivLibrary - "n452_w1150" • Dakota Kingfisher - "Eastern Screech Owl" • bill85704 - "Great Horned Owl Talons" • James St. John - "Otus asio (eastern screech owl)" • Dick Culbert - "Caecilia nigricans" • Pets4Dawn - "Field Mouse (peromyscus maniculatus)" • Seabamirum - "Eastern Screech-Owl" • U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region - "Rappahannock River Valley NWR 15th Anniversary" • Matt Tillett - "Eastern Screech-owl"

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